Anger at plan to shut Portobello toilets

Tiphaine Bellag with four-year-olds daughter Mia, left, and her friend Grena Renan, centre. Picture: Toby Williams
Tiphaine Bellag with four-year-olds daughter Mia, left, and her friend Grena Renan, centre. Picture: Toby Williams
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PLANS to shut three public toilets in Portobello been slammed by business and community leaders.

Under cost-cutting measures, the toilets at the seaside town would be permanently closed – a move branded “extremely short-sighted” by residents.

It has been argued that scrapping the lavatories – two on the promenade and another at Bath Street – would drive away tourists.

The controversial plan comes as the city aims to slash £67 million of cuts by 2018.

Edinburgh City Council currently spends £2.3m a year maintaining 29 public toilets across the city.

By closing a swathe of public toilets officials believe they can save £300,000.

Portobello Councillor Maureen Child said taxpayers can no longer afford to foot the bill for every public toilet in operation but was shocked that all three conveniences in Portobello could be facing the axe.

“This is an issue that has come up every year since I’ve been a councillor – and it’s easy to see why,” she said.

“Quite a few in Edinburgh aren’t well used, and so it’s something that needs to be reviewed.

“But I’m quite surprised that three out of three of the toilets in Portobello have come up for closure.

“They all seem to be very well-used, at least along the promenade, and I think a lot of people are going to be very upset if they go.”

And she added: “This is a controversial issue that a lot of individuals feel very strongly about. These proposals might get settled in February, or they might be pushed back. Either way, people need to join the debate and make their voices heard.”

In August the council apologised for the “atrocious” state of the Bath Street toilets – when vandals ripped hand basins off the walls, damaged urinals and broke door signs.

Yet despite such setbacks, Marcus Lyons, who works at The Espy Pub on the Promenade, said closure of the beach’s public toilets would be bad for businesses.

“We’ve already got quite a lot of people that come into the pub just to use the toilet, but problems always seem to arise from that,” he explained.

“Visitors that come into the pub solely to use the toilet sadly don’t respect the facilities the way that paying customers do – and because of licensing rules, there are times where children aren’t allowed on the premises at all.

“They need somewhere to go, and it wouldn’t be fair to families to shut down the public toilets.”

Portobello mother Tiphaine Bellag, 32, said it was already difficult enough finding a public facility in the area that was family-friendly.

“We already have to walk quite far to find a toilet,” she said.

“There’s nowhere else for kids to go, and without those facilities in place, tourists might just start choosing to avoid Portobello.”

Edinburgh City Council has launched a public consultation on next year’s budget cuts that will end on December 19.